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Nitzavim / You Are Standing
Deuteronomy 29:18-21 ‘… so that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. The Lord would not spare him; for then the anger of the Lord and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the Lord would blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Torah…’
There are some very stark words used in this paragraph: ‘heart turns away’… ‘serve gods of the nations’… ‘root bearing bitterness’… ‘he hears and then he blesses himself’… ‘I will follow my heart’…
Being very forthright, have we not allowed our hearts to speak to us and turn us away from God? Have we not served other gods in the nations? Are we not bitter? Do we not bless ourselves even after we hear the words of God and turn away from them? Don’t we follow our heart allowing our heart to control us?
Observing anything of the nations, such as Sunday, Easter, Christmas would be the very example to this paragraph in Nitzavim.
Chapter 30 continues with a blessing if we return: ‘Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the Lord your God drives you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the Lord your God has scattered you.’
Again, there are some very strong words, and notice that both the blessings and the curses will come upon us. The words to adhere to are: ‘We return’… ‘to obey His voice’… ‘He brings us back from captivity and has compassion on us’.
We have the choice of life or death: “For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend into heaven for us and bring it to us that we may hear it and do it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it. “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess. I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days…’ Deuteronomy 30:11-20.
This does not include anything that veers away from the teachings and instructions of God – anything – unclean foods, unclean places, Sunday worship, forsaking of Shabbat and the high holy days, and the practicing Christmas or Easter.
God is quite clear – choose life!
May you be blessed as you speak to your heart to follow God instead of allowing your heart to speak to you…
Rabbi Jay Howard